We all know about the dangers of heart disease — according to the CDC, it’s the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most ethnic and racial groups (so, basically, it’s the leading cause of death for pretty much everyone). In the U.S., one person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease. And while you might think this is something you don’t have to worry about until you’re older, the statistics say otherwise. In men, in particular, cardiovascular disease develops at a younger age than it does in women, and men are twice as likely to have heart attacks.
But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around waiting for heart disease to happen to you. There are steps you can take for a healthier life.
What is heart disease?
The heart is a powerful muscle that helps pump blood around the body. However, in heart disease, this action is restricted by the build-up of fatty deposits in the artery walls. The arteries are the channels blood uses to travel to all body parts, and these need to be kept clear for optimum circulation.
The build-up of fatty substances is called atherosclerosis, which can be caused by high-fat diets, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels can also increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease over time.
How does heart disease affect men?
It is not clear why men get heart disease more than women, but it is thought that males are less likely to exercise and eat healthily than their female counterparts. Men also tend to drink and smoke more and visit the doctor less.
Interestingly, another primary reason for the higher prevalence of heart disease in men is that they are more likely to have more stressful jobs but less likely to be able to cope as well with extra stress than women.
This is why heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the United States. In 2021 alone, it is thought that heart disease claimed the lives of 382,776 men.
Death can be sudden and come with no warning signs, so much so that half of the males that die of heart disease do not show any of the classic symptoms before death. If symptoms are present, then they usually restrict what individuals can do activity-wise because of breathlessness and pain.
What are signs you may have heart disease?
Classic signs of heart disease include chest pain which is sometimes referred to as angina, dizziness, nausea, feeling faint, heart attack, heart failure, and arrhythmia, which is also known as heart palpitations.
If any of these symptoms are present, then the men affected should see a doctor promptly for further tests to confirm the presence of heart disease. CT scans, blood tests, and coronary angiography are just a few of the methods used to diagnose the existence of this disease.
7 preventative measures you can take
1. Lower your blood pressure
High blood pressure is often symptomless, so it is essential to get regular blood pressure checks. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart disease, aortic aneurysms, and heart attacks. In addition, high blood pressure places extra strain on vital organs such as the kidneys and the heart, so it is important to make lifestyle changes that can bring readings back to normal levels.
Exercise and a low-fat, low-sodium diet can help drop blood pressure to healthier levels. Losing weight by eating low-calorie healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and reducing alcohol consumption and smoking is also a step in the right direction. Blood pressure-lowering medication is an option for severe cases.
2. Keep cholesterol levels in check
High cholesterol can run in families, but high-fat diets, obesity, smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise are other major risk factors for developing high cholesterol. This fatty substance in the blood can block arteries, so it is important to eat healthily and include lots of micronutrients from fruits, vegetables, and berries in your diet. These can help improve the health of the arterial walls.
Unsaturated fats and foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, and brown rice can also help drop cholesterol levels. However, butter, cakes, biscuits, cream, and cheese can do the opposite and should be avoided if you have high cholesterol.
3. Diabetes prevention
Diabetes is a major heart disease risk factor. Although type 2 diabetes can run in families, the main cause of developing it is diet and lifestyle related. Consuming too many carbs, such as white rice, white bread, and other high glycemic index foods, raises blood sugar levels quickly. The body responds by producing insulin from the pancreas to lower sugar levels. This cycle can eventually lead to diabetes.
The best carbs come from complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, and green leafy vegetables, which raise blood sugar levels slower with less insulin needed to lower blood sugars.
Being overweight and inactive can also increase the chances of becoming diabetic, but walking daily for an hour can decrease your diabetes risk.
4. Don’t smoke
Smoking cigars and cigarettes are damaging to the heart and lungs. They also increase your risk of developing heart disease and cancer. In addition, chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart muscle itself and the blood vessels that help circulate blood around the body.
Smoking also reduces the oxygen levels in the blood, making the heart muscle work faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the body.
5. Manage stress levels
Stress is part of everyday modern life, and some people manage stress better than others. However, a constant state of stress can be damaging to health because it can lead to high blood pressure. Yoga, meditation, and certain other therapies can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Everybody needs at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night, but very few achieve this target because of poor sleeping patterns. Sleep is vital because it helps to rest the mind and the body. It is also important for the immune system and the heart muscle itself. The heart relaxes during sleep, and blood pressure can also ease, relieving any arterial tension. This helps to improve circulation and oxygen levels in the blood.
7. Regular health checks
Regular health screenings of blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels can help spot the risk factors that can lead to heart disease. Only then can the lifestyle and diet changes mentioned be implemented by individuals to help prevent heart disease from developing and leading to premature death.
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